In some countries and some cultures, food and culture are inextricably linked. And in the case of today’s destination, go back millennia. I’m so excited to share some background on Israel & Jordan cuisine, and some of the amazing food we tried (and places we visited)!
I can’t even begin to show you all the amazing stuff we did during our seven days there. I’ve done a whole post here on our trip itinerary (that links to several other individual in-depth posts). Suffice to say, it was a complete bucket list trip—including actually ticking my #1 bucket list item off when we visited the Lost City of Petra.
But one thing I didn’t get to go into tons of detail about in my travel blog posts was Middle Eastern cuisine and all the delicious things we ate and drank in Israel and Jordan. And when I returned home, I immediately started incorporating aspects into my recipe experimentation.
The hallmarks of Israel & Jordan cuisine
There are tons of similarities in Israel’s cuisine and Jordan’s, and both have been shaped by thousands of years of history and cultural changes. But there are some differences as well.
Like most Middle Eastern cultures, both rely on staples such as hummus, some kind of flat bread, tahini (sesame seed paste, used in many different things like halva, hummus, and sauces), meat roasted on a spit and shaved off (shawarma), lots of fresh salads and mezze (dips), falafel and other chickpea-based foods, flatbreads, and hot tea that welcomes you everywhere. And you’ll find olive oil in and around everything. While there are small differences in how each culture prepares each of these dishes, they’re very recognizable siblings regardless.
Then each has specialties and unique offerings. In Jordan, their cuisine is especially adapted to cooking over campfires in the desert, due to the Bedouin roots. For instance, zarb is cooked in an oven submerged over a fire in the sand out in the deserts of Petra and Wadi Rum, and yields super tender meat and vegetables. You’ll see a lot more za’atar (made from sumac that grows wild in Jordan) and yogurt served alongside main dishes (similar to what I found in Turkey). And you’ll be offered hot tea with mint (sometimes sweetened) everywhere you go—Bedouin hospitality is legendary!
In Israel, shawarma, falafel, hummus, and pita are omnipresent, with tahini sauce coating everything. You’ll find more sweets like knafeh and baklava as well. Shaksuka (a spicy egg dish originating in North Africa) is also emblematic of Israeli cuisine. What’s interesting is how all of the Jewish people returning to Israel after World War II from places like Eastern Europe have impacted the overall cuisine—seen in the presence of dishes such as rugelach, babka, and sufganiot (jelly donuts for Hanukkah).
Wow, I hadn’t realized how long it’s been since I’ve talked about my two true loves together—food and travel!
Today I want to show you a little bit about my trip to Sweden, which was completely impromptu and ended up being completely epic. What started as snagging a cheap flight ($286 from Newark to Gothenburg) led us to stumbling on renting a sailboat on Airbnb and spending a long weekend on the beautiful waters of the Gothenburg Archipelago in the North Sea. This was my first time visiting a Scandinavian country, but I’ve since been to Norway a couple times so expect more on delicious Scandinavian pastries to come!
We landed in Gothenburg and our sailboat captain, Patrik, picked us up at the airport. While our ultimate goal was getting out on the water as soon as possible, Patrik wanted us to get a little glimpse of the city—plus we needed to stock up on provisions. We were starving, so first we sat at a lovely outdoor cafe and tried AMAZING fish cakes in a brown butter sauce, with mashed potatoes and peas. We had their salad bar as well, with a refreshing local beer to wash everything down with. I was really excited about the fish cakes, because they were made with salmon and white fish and no shellfish, which is crazy hard to find.
One of the things I love about traveling is when I run across a food or flavor that is totally new to me. And in this case, I was able to come home and start experimenting with it right away in my own cooking.
My dad and I took an awesome trip to Israel and Jordan last May, an epic week exploring tons of historical areas in the north and Negev Desert, Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa, Jerusalem, Masada, the Dead Sea, Wadi Rum, and Petra—and much more. One of the constants on every part of our journey was tahini, a paste made from ground sesame seeds. It is omnipresent in the Israeli and Jordanian diets, taking both sweet and savory forms.
It was one of the first things we ate upon landing (on that delicious falafel pita below) and one of the last things before taking off (that delicious sweet halva that looks like cheese wheels below). We ate halva in a Bedouin camp in Jordan and tahini on our Yemeni malawach in Jerusalem. So tahini kind of got its hooks in me, and I’ve been experimenting with different recipes since returning (like this Chickpea Sweet Potato Buddha Bowl with a tahini dressing). But this is my first dessert recipe using tahini, and it’s super delicious.
So I figured it was about time I shared something that’s pretty exciting (to me at least).
It isn’t exactly a secret, but it isn’t exactly widely-known either. A few months ago I started a travel blog!
It really came about because I realized that I have so much travel research, so many trial-and-error tips, beautiful pictures, and perfect itineraries to share, but didn’t have a way to do it. Travel and food are two of my main passions in life—ones that thankfully often overlap 🙂
I’ve been trying to travel more and more over the last year. Successfully, I might add…in 2016 I was blessed to visit Mexico, Argentina, Turkey, Canada, Sweden, France, Italy, and Spain, in addition to a few great trips in the U.S. My first half of 2017 is even more jam-packed (Norway, the California coast, Switzerland, Portugal, Jordan, Israel, and Turkey again!).
SO. If you like seeing new places, hearing about different cultures, beautiful pictures, amazeballs-looking food, wacky travel mishap stories, and super practical tips on how to see the world on your own, I’d love for you to join me over at One Girl, Whole World as well. Or, share with a friend or family member who loves to travel.
Have no fear—I’ll still be posting tons of great recipes here. This is just a new adventure that I’m super excited about, and wanted to share with you guys as well.
See you on the flip side!
How can I *not* start with this pic. I mean, LOOK. AT. IT.
If you caught my post a couple weeks ago, you’ll know how much I LOOOOOVED the food in Turkey, and the two different food tours we went on to get a feel for the culture and cuisine. But the tours were just the beginning…we spent all three days eating everything in sight (and maybe seeing some sights in-between).
We couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day to explore. The Blue Mosque looked particularly majestic against the blue sky.
You might like: What to Do With 24 Hours in Istanbul
We were up early and tramped over the Galata Bridge, in search of breakfast.
And boy, did we find it. So, this is definitely one of the stranger things we ate. We sat down to a lovely breakfast, I ordered a cappuccino and honey and sweet cream with bread, and then something on the menu caught my eye. That white dish in the back is tavukgogsu—otherwise known as chicken breast pudding.
I KNOW. READ THE POST
Oh, internet peeps, this trip was just amazing. No other word for it.
When my co-worker randomly texted me in February saying she’d found a ticket to Istanbul for around $700, did I want to go, I immediately jumped at the chance to visit a city that’s always been on my bucket list. As a total history nerd, the Roman Empire and Constantinople has always fascinated me, and so off we went for a whirlwind Memorial Day weekend.
And Istanbul? You did not disappoint!
But while I’ve always looked forward to seeing Istanbul’s architecture and culture and history, I hadn’t given its food much thought. In my pre-trip research I read about a lot of things that sounded great, and we decided what better way to get our bearings in the city than with a food tour (or two)—and that was an excellent decision, if I do say so myself.
I totally fell in love with Turkey’s food…join me, if you will, on this gastro extravaganza (gastro-vaganza??).
Here’s more on Istanbul’s food and awesomeness
We arrived at our apartment in late afternoon, refreshed ourselves, and hit the streets right away. After accidentally getting on the tram going the wrong direction for a stop, we quickly got headed the right way and met up with our tour guide in Sultanahmet.
This was our guide, Burek. He brought us to a local family’s house, where the mom made a traditional meal including corba (a delicious lentil soup), chicken with vegetables and sauce and pilav and yogurt, and bread and watermelon. We also had the traditional black tea. We sat on the floor like they do regularly, in the same room they sleep in as well. Throughout the meal we conversed with the family, with Burek translating, and learned about their life in the eastern part of the country prior to coming to Istanbul about a decade ago (they are Kurdish) and what their life is like now. It was such a cool experience.
Burek took us to a local pub next. Pubs don’t serve alcohol, but instead the traditional shisha (also called hookah, nargile, etc.) and tea. The pub was really beautiful, with ornate light fixtures and beautiful inlaid tables. Frequented by locals, the building is over 300 years old, was once a religious school and dervish lodge, then bazaar. The waiter brought us glasses of “apple tea” (which is more like the powdered apple cider that comes in packets, and only drunk by tourists and children) and apple (elma) shisha. While the shisha is definitely not for me, it was a really interesting and authentic experience.READ THE POST
It’s no secret that travel is my crack. Few experiences can compete with setting foot in a new country, seeing how the people live, soaking up the culture, and—of course—eating and drinking everything in sight. So imagine my excitement when my friend Sarai and I decided on Argentina for our girls’ trip this year.
This was basically my face the whole time.
So, without further ado, here are some highlights (a little heavily food/wine focused, because…well, duh) from Argentina. I hope it gets you as excited to try and visit this amazing country as it did for me.
Our first taste of Argentina actually was a medialuna and kind of sad coffee hastily bought at the airport before jumping on a bus that took two hours to take us across the city to the domestic airport. It actually was pretty darn good, but then once we got to the airport we were STARVING. On the great advice of someone from the TripAdvisor forum, we eschewed the airport food and walked across the street to one of the food carts.
One hamburgesa and a grapefruit soda later, we were content to bask in the sunlight and watch old men fish while waiting to check in for our flight. Our first stop was in Puerto Iguazu, where we spent the next day exploring the absolutely amazing Iguazu Falls (from the Argentinian side).
THIS IS REAL LIFE.READ THE POST
Wrapping up our trip with a few days in the Rotorua area of the North Island!
We’d planned to head down to Hamilton for one night so we could do a dawn hot air balloon ride, but the weather didn’t cooperate so we headed straight to our rental house on Lake Tarawera, about 20 minutes from Rotorua. It was dark when we arrived, but early the next morning Sarai and I took our coffee down the hill to our little jetty and watched the sunrise.
Our deck had a great view! We were totally off the grid out there—no cell service or wifi—so we lit the fireplace, sat on the deck, drank wine and talked. It was so relaxing!
The Rotorua area is famous for being a “thermal wonderland”. One day we visited Wai-o-Tapu, probably the most well-known of the thermal areas. The gorgeous Champagne Pool, with its “artist’s palette” came to life for us, and this highlighter-yellow lake was unbelievable! But everything smelled like rotten egg, which was really gross—I haven’t been up for eating eggs since then…
We found this awesome cafe called Capers in Rotorua. They had all sorts of great stuff, so we stopped there twice for brunch. The second time I had this amazing toasted brioche with ricotta and local honey.READ THE POST
We spent the last eight days in the Nelson/Tasman region of the South Island. We’d rented a lovely little house in Richmond and based ourselves there for various food and beverage explorations, as well as attending the Feast of Tabernacles. Nelson is one of the bigger cities in the area, about 46,000 people. It’s about an area from the Abel Tasman National Park, which has gorgeous coastal tracks and kayaking and seals and beaches. It and the Marlborough region are also acclaimed for their local wines and beers, so it was the perfect place for our foursome to stay!
The scenery in this part of the South Island was so different from where we were previously. Golden beaches, turquoise waters, green hills—it was like Hawaii up in here.
Split Apple Rock in Abel Tasman. Not an actual apple.
We hiked Pinchgut Trail in Nelson Lakes National Park, up Mt. Robert…it was crazy steep and we just about died. We rewarded our delirious, exhausted selves with a giant dinner and beer at The Vic.
We took a boat ride along the Abel Tasman coast and then had an awesome dinner of lamb and good wine at Ford’s in Nelson.
This area is particularly known for its wines, so I put on my comfy wine tasting skirt and got down to business…READ THE POST
Greetings from the future!!!
No, really, it’s tomorrow here. I’m in gorgeous, sunny New Zealand, soaking up the unbelievable scenery, talking to awesome Kiwis (the people, not the bird), and hanging out with three cool friends. We’re here for the Feast of Tabernacles, but since we were coming so far (and spending so much money!) we wanted to cram as much awesome into our trip as possible. As always when I travel, I am also super excited about trying all kinds of local food and drink!
We spent our first few days in the Mackenzie region, after flying into Christchurch and then driving a few hours down to Lake Tekapo. When we arrived at our first rental house, we were utterly charmed, and visions of coffee and wine in front of the fire danced in our heads.
We immediately set out to explore, taking in the gorgeous turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo before heading into the village in search of sustenance.
We had decent pizzas and good local beer. Great, interesting beer is one of the things New Zealand seems to offer in abundance. This is a local oyster stout, and when I asked the waiter if it had oysters in it he said no, but then the internet told me otherwise. Oops… :SREAD THE POST